Winn Feline Foundation Awards 10 Research Grants

The Winn Feline Foundation recently awarded 10 research grants totaling $135,860 to help fund feline health studies.

The Winn Feline Foundation recently awarded 10 research grants totaling $135,860 to help fund feline health studies. 

The organization, which received 36 proposals from researchers around the world for 2008 funding, was pleased with the number of proposals, which showed a research interest in cats.

Several of the funded studies focus on feline coronavirus.

Gary Whittaker, Ph.D., of Cornell University, received $15,000 to study the molecular basis of feline coronavirus pathogenesis and the development of feline infectious peritonitis , or FIP. Dr. Whittaker is seeking a better understanding  of    why the virus, which typically resides in the gut of the cat, sometimes mutates to infect the cat’s immune system.

H.F. Egberink, DVM, Ph.D., and P.J.M. Rottier, Ph.D., of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, will receive $15,000 for their efforts to identify the cellular receptor for feline coranaviruses, which cause FIP. 

Drs. Egberink and Rottier believe that the lack of knowledge about these receptor cells has created a bottleneck for research into the disease, thereby hindering efforts to develop vaccines and treatments for it.

Saverio Paltrinieri, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ECVCP, of the University of Milan in Italy, received $14,780 to fund his work into blood parameters associated with susceptibility to feline coronavirus in Birman cats. In essence, Dr. Paltrinieri is seeking to develop a blood test that would identify whether a cat were resistant or susceptible to the coronavirus. 

This could improve breeders’ strategies for producing the cats, and it could also help multiple cat owners keep their cats healthy. Because cats that are resistant to the coronavirus  and  shed large amounts of the virus if they’re infected, susceptible cats face an increased risk of infection and subsequent disease.

With the help of the Ricky Fund, established by radio host and columnist Steve Dale in memory of his piano-playing Devon Rex, the Winn Feline Foundation is funding a pair of studies into feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (the disease that killed Ricky).

In one study, with expected additional funding from Siberian cat breeders, Kathryn Meurs, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, of Washington State University will receive $12,988 to study whether the DNA of a certain mutated gene found in Siberian cats causes inherited feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Dr. Meurs previously demonstrated such a link with genes found in Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats.

In the other study, Dr. Meurs is receiving $14,242 to study whether an additional genetic mutation found in Norwegian Forest Cats, Sphynxes, Siberians, Ragdolls and Maine Coon cats is causing the disease. 

This is a separate gene to the one previously identified by Dr. Meurs in the Maine Coon and Ragdoll, as not all of those cats that have the disease also had the original mutated causative gene. 

Breeders of the subject cat breeds are contributing funding to this project.

This could improve breeders’ strategies for producing the cats, and it could also help multiple cat owners keep their cats healthy.

A few of the grants will fund cancer research, including $15,000 to William Kisseberth, DVM, Ph.D., of the Ohio State University. 

Dr. Kisseberth will study new drugs for possible use in treating feline oral squamous cell carninoma. Th is  tumor is the third most common in the cat, representing 10 percent of all tumors and 61 percent of tumors in the mouth.

Typically, the disease is recognized late in its progression and survival times  average three months. The tumors’ location and pain prevents cats from eating, swallowing and grooming, and treatments include feeding tubes and aggressive pain management.

Another cancer grant will provide $14,150 to Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., of Cornell University, to study whether a new generation of anti-inflammatory drugs could drastically reduce tumor growth in cases of feline squamous cell carcinoma, an often terminal type of cancer for cats with few treatment strategies. Human studies of these drugs have shown promise in slowing tumor growth.

Similarly, Sakhila Banu, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University received $15,000 to study the role of a specific hormone in the development and spread of mammary cancers in cats. Mammary cancer may account for up to 17 percent of non-lymphoid tumors in cats, with upwards of 96 percent of mammary tumors being malignant and spreading to other tissues. 

Dr. Banu’s research could lead to new strategies for preventing or treating mammary cancers through non-steroidal anti-inflammatory therapies.

The other research projects focus on chronic kidney disease.

Katharine Lunn, Ph.D., MRCVS, Dipl. ACVIM, of Colorado State University received $14,992 to study the use of a drug as an appetite stimulant and anti-nausea therapy for cats with chronic kidney disease, thereby improving the quality of life of cats with the disease.

Macon Miles, DVM, of the Animal Emergency Referral Center in Torrance, Calif., will receive $4,708 to study the safety and effectiveness of supplementing cats  that have naturally occurring chronic renal failure with oral L-Arginine, an amino acid. Cats with naturally occurring chronic renal failure have decreased levels of L-arginine, thus the hope that supplementation could improve their lives.

This study was approved pending further funding. For information about donating to this study, contact the Winn Feline Foundation.


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